Writing Tools

Espresso is all that stands between us and creative defeat

15 May 2017

From The Guardian:

Ideally I write in a silent room with a magnificent and inspiring view of the natural world. I do not always have access to such a room. Instead I have street noise and an inbox full of administrative email, and if I’m really unlucky, actual phone calls to make. When I was depressed and unpublished and in my early 20s, I developed a full-blown phone phobia. I could put off the simplest call for days at a time. I still hate having to talk to the bank or the accountant, and find it hard to concentrate on writing until I’ve dealt with that kind of task.

Both Katie and I write at home. When the sitter turns up at 10am, the household settles down. I used to waste an improbable amount of time, but I don’t have that luxury now. I create my space with headphones, big over-the-ear cans that block out the world. I play music, usually something very minimal at low volume, just enough to trick myself into the meditative concentration I need to write. No vocal music for obvious reasons, though vocals can be OK if they’re in a language I don’t understand. When something works, it disappears and becomes an environment in which I can think.

. . . .

I have a desktop computer and a laptop. For a novel I make a single Word document, but rename it every morning, so I have a way to track versions if I need to dig out something I cut. I make notes on paper, in spiral-bound notebooks, but my handwriting is terrible, particularly if I’m trying to set ideas down quickly, and it’s much faster to type. I back up. I can’t understand writers who don’t back up. I look at a monitor jacked up to eye height on a pile of books. My desk is usually cluttered. I recently bought myself a good keyboard (one with mechanical switches, but that’s not too loud) and I wish I’d succumbed to keyboard fetishism years ago. What can I say? It’s a nicer ride. I spend a lot of time on the internet, but some of it’s research. My concentration is better when I’m not toggling between my Word doc and 30 different tabs on a browser.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

New Word Editor

14 April 2017

From Inc.:

Last week, as I was trying to finish a document in Microsoft Word 2017, a new feature caught my eye. It’s called Editor, and it is a little frightening. Here’s why.

I remember the good old days when Word would happily suggest passive voice fixes and offer to correct spelling. Long before that, Word stayed out of the way. Back when Bill Gates was in charge, Word was more like a blank page for my creative ideas.

Now, it has become much more aggressive.

When the app started telling me about weak words like “maybe” and “possibly” I was OK with that.

. . . .

I’ve realized, however, that Word is now using machine learning to look for much deeper problems. Troubling problems. Problems that have lurked in my writing for 16 years. Word is now analyzing my word choices, looking for contextualization problems, flagging words that are overused or too casual, hinting when a word is overly complex.

It’s trying to improve my writing, and I’m having some issues with that.

First off, don’t you dare try to use AI to fix my writing! I’m OK with AI helping me drive better in a Tesla, or shutting off the lights in my living room when I’m not home, or finding a better deal on travel when it sees how much time I spend scouring Expedia for good flights to Vegas. I can handle AI probing my email and weeding out the fluff, or even suggesting better web sites. Someday, I might have a discussion with Amazon Alexa about my health conditions, and I’m perfectly fine revealing all of those details.

But flagging me for Too Many Determiners? Calling me out for an Incorrect Auxiliary? You’ve gone too far and you know it. I was perfectly fine living in my cocoon of illusion, never knowing I had issues with Vague Adjectives or an Indefinite Article. I liked being indefinite! Now, I am carrying around all this excess baggage realizing I have some work to do. For example, I really should not have ended that sentence with the word do. (There I go again.) There are ways I can improve, and I’m not happy about that.

Link to the rest at Inc. and thanks to Dusk for the tip.

PG doesn’t think he exactly replicated this behavior. The OP refers to Microsoft Word 2017, but PG thinks the latest desktop version of Word is 2016. The latest Word 365 also shows it as being the 2016 version.

PG thinks he sumbled onto grammar central on Word 2016 under {File} {Options} {Proofing} then clicking the Settings button under the “When correcting spelling and grammer in Word” section (way to be intuitive, Microsoft).

After clicking the aforementioned Settings button, the following box popped up:

He’s not certain he found the same place that originated the behavior described in the OP or if it is another 15 levels down in the MS Word menu system.

PG welcomes comments that will illuminate his understanding.

The laptop is dead

3 April 2017

From TechConnect:

You may never buy another laptop.

Ten years ago, laptop sales overtook desktop PC sales to become the dominant hardware platform for computing. Now smartphones are about to do to laptops what laptops did to desktops.

But wait, you may ask. What’s wrong with laptops?

. . . .

For the past decade, Apple has led and dominated the laptop market with design and innovation. The company has been moving toward better quality, so-called “Retina” screens. Apple’s keyboard designs and unibody aluminum construction have been heavily imitated. The company used to dazzle the industry by sweating the small stuff, like the MagSafe power connector and lights that shine through aluminum.

It’s not just that Apple innovated. It’s that its laptop innovations evolved their products toward elegance and usability. And that’s over.

After years without a significant new laptop design, their latest release, last year’s MacBook Pro, landed with a thud. The laptop was seriously underpowered — called by some a MacBook Air at a MacBook Pro price. The company ditched its incredibly popular MagSafe power connector in favor of USB C power.

. . . .

The best thing that can be said about the MacBook Pro is that it’s faster and has a better screen than previous models. But this is inevitable and expected, not revolutionary.

There’s nothing about this laptop that’s going to drive the industry to imitate. Rivals are more likely to see the new MacBook Pro as an opportunity to provide something different, not something similar.

. . . .

The U.S. and U.K. governments recently banned all non-medical electronic devices larger than a smartphone as carry-on for U.S.-bound flights on specific airlines from specific airports in the Middle East and North Africa. Passengers are required to check their laptops.

. . . .

There are several assumptions we can make about the ban.

First, like so many security measures, the ban may spread globally and eventually include all flights. For the next few years, it may become impossible to use a laptop on a commercial flight.

Second, such a ban will affect laptop sales. Many travelers won’t want to place an expensive laptop in checked luggage for fear of loss or theft. The general fear, uncertainty and doubt around laptops on airplanes is enough to change consumer behavior. And the frequent flier is the laptop industry’s best customer base.

Third, the ban will be an incentive to develop alternatives so passengers can travel without laptops.

. . . .

Samsung announced this week its upcoming Galaxy S8 and S8+ smartphones, and the public is impressed. But even more impressive is a Galaxy S8 peripheral called the DeX Station.

The DeX is a smartphone dock into which you plug a keyboard, mouse and monitor. DeX enables you to use your Galaxy S8 as a desktop PC. (Instead of a monitor, you can also plug in a TV or projector.) The dock outputs at a 4K resolution, and it supports Ethernet for faster connections.

I expect some of you business users to buy two — one permanently installed in your office and another in your home office. That would enable you to use your smartphone full time as your only device, even as you benefit from the giant screen, full-size keyboard goodness of a desktop PC everywhere you work.

You can take it with you on trips, and use it in hotel rooms to plug into the room’s big TV.

Link to the rest at TechConnect

 

Making Your Phone Take Dictation

23 February 2017

From The New York Times:

 Q. I am a writer and ideas for stories come to me at the most inopportune times. I usually end up making voice memos on my iPhone, but in the end I really need to transcribe them to text. Is there an effective and efficient app to automatically transcribe voice recordings?

A. Third-party apps and services that convert spoken words into text files on iOS devices are plentiful in Apple’s online store, but depending on when you need the transcribing to happen, you may not need to download anything extra. For example, the Siri assistant software built onto iOS can open the iPhone’s Notes app and transcribe your words as you speak them.

Hold down the iPhone’s Home button (or say “Hey Siri” to wake up the software), say “Make a new note,” and then speak your thoughts — reciting the punctuation like “period” or “comma” aloud. The resulting note can be emailed, copied, pasted or shared with a compatible text app.

Siri may be the quickest way to dictate a quick set of thoughts without fumbling with other apps, but if you do not use the Siri assistant, you can turn on the Dictation tool in the iPhone’s Settings app. In Settings, go to General and then to keyboard to find the Dictation option buried at the bottom of the screen. When the setting is enabled, a small microphone appears on the keyboard of text-entering apps like Notes, Google Docs, Microsoft Word for iOS, or Apple’s own Pages word processor.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Jan for the tip.

 

How Microsoft rebounded to outshine Apple

21 December 2016

From CIO:

Microsoft claims that more people are switching to Surface devices from Macs than ever before. That’s a concept that would have been hard to picture when Microsoft first released the Microsoft Surface RT and Surface Pro in 2012 and 2013, respectively. The Surface RT suffered from a watered-down version of the new — and generally disliked — Windows 8 operating system and, while the Surface Pro featured the full desktop version, it came with hardware limitations and a high price tag.

In a sea of clam shell notebooks, all vying to be thinner and lighter than the last, the Surface clumsily debuted as a confusing mashup of a tablet and a laptop. And people didn’t like it. RT users complained of the limited functionality and never-ending bugs, while Surface Pro users were forced to pay a high price just to avoid Windows RT. In fact, the Surface RT did so poorly that Microsoft had to take a $900 million dollar write-down after drastically cutting the price of the device.

. . . .

For a company once targeting modern, creative professionals, it’s hard to tell who Apple makes products for anymore. Apple’s devices now feel tailored to a low-tech crowd, or people who like new tech, but just aren’t that interested in specs. They want a reliable, easy-to-use device that just works. But where does that leave the original fan base of creative workers who need high-performance and cutting edge features? Apple hasn’t left this industry with many options — and at this point, you can get more for your money in graphics and performance on a Surface Book than a Macbook Pro. Plus, with the newly announced Microsoft Studio, there is finally a strong alternative to the iMac — with a touch display, no less.

Apple’s compromise is the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar, which features a dynamic touch bar replacing the row of function keys on the keyboard. The display changes depending on settings and the app you’re using; it’s a cool feature, and certainly useful, but it’s a confusing message. If the iPad Pro is competing with hybrid notebooks like the Surface Pro 4, but Apple doesn’t think people want touch-displays on a notebook, then does that make the iPad Pro a giant iPad?

. . . .

Remember when Windows users were the boring, out of touch, suit-wearing nerds in commercials, and a Mac user was the hipster CEO of a startup — that guy in 2006 who wore hoodies and scootered to all his meetings? That landscape has changed a lot since then, and now Microsoft is the one calling out Apple on selling outdated hardware and falling behind the curve.

Link to the rest at CIO

PG is comfortable saying that 99% of the books in the English language are written on devices running either Microsoft or Apple software (although Google may be moving up).

Describing Words Finds Adjectives For the Noun You’re Writing About

28 November 2016

From Lifehacker:

When you’re writing, adjectives give you the most flexibility to create a vivid picture. It’s also easy to slip into a cliche series of mundane, familiar adjectives. Describing Words helps inspire you with something different.

Head to Describing Words and enter the noun you want to write about. The site then gives you a list of descriptors. The list comes from an analysis of hundreds of books and authors over the last century. The creator of the tool used Project Gutenberg as a start for the database, later adding “around 100 gigabytes of text files.” The result is a varied and eclectic list of adjectives you can pull from. Words that show up in blue are used more frequently than boxes in gray.

Link to the rest at Lifehacker and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Scrivener for iOS Means You Can Write Your Zombie Novel Anywhere

20 July 2016

From Wired:

Every November for the last 17 years, thousands of people have participated in National Novel Writing Month, which is more commonly and less pronounceably known as NaNoWriMo. In 2015, 431,626 people signed up to try and write 50,000 words in a single month. One guy apparently wrote more than a million.

NaNoWriMo has been very good to Keith Blount. Blount is the creator and primary developer of Scrivener, an app made specifically for writers wrangling huge word counts. Scrivener’s first public launch came via the NaNoWriMo forums in 2005, and now Blount and his company, Literature and Latte, sponsor a camp for aspiring novelists every year. A huge group of writers, at all levels of acclaim and wealth and prolificness, rely on Scrivener to do their work on Macs and PCs. And today, after years of development and even more years of user requests, Scrivener’s also available for the iPhone and iPad.

The new app is cleaner and simpler than any Scrivener project has ever been. It’s text-heavy and list-friendly, which should sound familiar to anyone who’s used…any iOS app ever. “My philosophy,” Blount says, “has always been to kind of follow Apple’s lead in this regard—to make apps that look native, feel native, and kind of get out of the way as much as they can.” Still, Scrivener’s always been more complicated than your average writing app, so Blount had to be inventive: the app uses gestures to help you organize, and tries to help you find everything quickly.

If you’ve used Scrivener before, the mobile app will feel very much like its desktop counterpart. Everything’s divided into projects, which can contain drafts, snippets, research, and more. There’s a place to put character bios, an easy way to export everything into a single readable document, and a “corkboard” view for physically moving all the parts around in your project. And above all, there’s a delightfully simple place to write.

Link to the rest at Wired and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

The Best Ambient Noise Generators For Creative Work

11 July 2016

From Kayla Minguez via Medium:

When you’re having a difficult time focusing on a project, sometimes all it takes to find your motivation is the right kind of background noise.

I haven’t regularly used ambient noise generators in the past, but I find myself drawn to them more and more lately. I like them for several reasons:

  • They block out distracting sounds and conversations around me
  • They provide a way to avoid total silence (which I also find cumbersome at times)
  • They keep my mind from wandering
  • Many of them allow you to personalize the listening experience to suit your tastes
  • Many of them are beautifully designed and can add some flavor to your day

If I’m having a hard time focusing, or am distracted by other people or my own, wandering thoughts, I find that the right kind of background noise can really help me block out those distractions and focus on what I’m trying to do.

As a writer, I’ve especially come to appreciate that noise generators usually avoid clearly distinguishable words, like song lyrics or personal conversations. Such words tend to throw off my train of thought and make it difficult for me to pay attention to my own, internal voice.

. . . .

A 2012 study from the Journal of Consumer Research found that “a moderate level of background noise enhances creativity.” Just as importantly, the study found that when participants listened to louder ambient noise, they spent less time on their given tasks. Researchers say this indicates reduced information processing, which would be counterproductive to most creatives’ goals.

From this study then, the takeaway is that you should listen to ambient noise at a moderate level; high enough to mask distracting sounds around you but low enough that it isn’t interfering with your mental processes.

Contrastingly, it’s also worth noting that some experts have suggested low-level noise and background noise can be distracting to people. Scientific American reports that such sounds can sometimes cause an increase in stress and stress-related conditions like high blood pressure. However, such distraction seems more to be the case with people who are trying to memorize and retain information, in which case the background noise may be interfering with those specific goals.

For those of us simply trying to knock out the next chapter of our novels or the styling of our clients’ websites, ambient noise seems more likely to benefit rather than hinder creativity.

Link to the rest at Medium

How Literature Became Word Perfect

5 May 2016

From The New Republic:

“As if being 1984 weren’t enough.” Thomas Pynchon, writing in The New York Times Book Review, marked the unnerving year with an honest question about seemingly dystopian technology: “Is It OK to Be a Luddite?” The Association of American Publishers records that by 1984, between 40 and 50 percent of American authors were using word processors. It had been a quarter-century since novelist C.P. Snow gave a lecture in which he saw intellectual life split into “literary” and “scientific” halves. Pynchon posited that the division no longer held true; it obscured the reality about the way things were going. “Writers of all descriptions are stampeding to buy word processors,” he wrote. “Machines have already become so user-friendly that even the most unreconstructed of Luddites can be charmed into laying down the old sledgehammer and stroking a few keys instead.”

The literary history of the early years of word processing—the late 1960s through the mid-’80s—forms the subject of Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s new book, Track Changes. The year 1984 was a key moment for writers deciding whether to upgrade their writing tools. That year, the novelist Amy Tan founded a support group for Kaypro users called Bad Sector, named after her first computer—itself named for the error message it spat up so often; and Gore Vidal grumped that word processing was “erasing” literature. He grumped in vain. By 1984, Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick, Michael Chabon, Ralph Ellison, Arthur C. Clarke, and Anne Rice all used WordStar, a first-generation commercial piece of software that ran on a pre-DOS operating system called CP/M. (One notable author still using WordStar is George R.R. Martin.)

. . . .

Genre writers were among the earliest adopters of new word processing technologies—experimenting with them as early as the 1970s—since they were often more adventurous and less precious than their hyper-literary colleagues. Many of the highest-browed in the literary world resisted word processing for decades. Indeed, some writers would conceal the fact that they used a word processor for fear of being tarnished by an association with automation or inauthenticity. In a 2011 New York Times article, Gish Jen recalled colleagues at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the 1980s doctoring their printouts, adding unnecessary pencil annotations in order to make their manuscripts seem more “real,” less perfect. Perfect copy, after all, was for the typist, not the genius.

. . . .

Thinkers of all stripes marveled at their new ability to move chunks of text. In 1983, Michael Crichton told Merv Griffin that, “When you type, the words appear on the screen … you can move around on the screen, change what you’ve written, pull blocks of text, put them elsewhere. You have complete freedom.” His disbelieving glee was shared by many, but some writers reacted differently.

. . . .

For Anne Rice—who was devoted to WordStar and also had her most famous character, the vampire Lestat, use the program to type out his memoirs—the writer must come face to face with a machine that demands she create not just perfect copy, but ideal creative thought. With all these tools at one’s disposal, Rice writes, “There’s really no excuse for not writing the perfect book.”

. . . .

In the first issue of Gloria Steinem’s Ms. (1971) was an advertisement placed by Evelyn Berezin, proprietor of the Redactron Corporation. Berezin had been working in computer engineering since the early 1950s, first as lead logic designer at the Electronic Computer Corporation, then at Teleregister, a system facilitating plane ticket bookings. After losing out on a job on the floor of the male-only New York Stock Exchange, Berezin went solo. She decided to design a rival to IBM’s MT/ST.

She called her invention the “Data Secretary.” It would be a “true computer, with 13 onboard semiconductor chips and programmable logic driving its word processing functions.” To sell the thing, Berezin went straight to the frustrated professionals who would use the word processor soonest, those already drowning in paperwork. The Ms. ad is 400-ish words addressed directly to the “Dead-End Secretary,” promising her liberation from the typewriter, and therefore a better job. Once she doesn’t have to type all day, what’s to stop the secretary moving into management? “Ask your boss about the Data Secretary,” the ad said. “We’ve already told him about it.”

The premise of the ad was, of course, that word processors already existed, just in a different form: the human woman. Such women worked in every office, everywhere, and they also worked for literary writers. Henry James’s secretary Theodora Bosanquetwas an enormous fan of her employer, credited by James with truly getting what he was “driving at.” Valerie Eliot, widow and legacy—keeper of T.S. Eliot, had formerly been Valerie Fletcher, typist at Faber & Faber. She performed secretarial duties for Eliot with ferocious competence during his life and guarded his papers after his death with an equal loyalty. Sonia Orwell did exactly the same thing for George. These women’s professional, love, and literary lives blurred into one duty of work, dedicated to the male writer.

. . . .

Kirschenbaum quotes Wendell Berry, writing in 1987 on his wife’s essential role as typist:

My wife types my work on a Royal standard typewriter bought new in 1956 and as good now as it was then. As she types, she sees things that are wrong and marks them with small checks in the margins. She is my best critic because she is the one most familiar with my habitual errors and weaknesses. She also understands, sometimes better than I do, what ought to be said. We have, I think, a literary cottage industry that works well and pleasantly. I do not see anything wrong with it.

Link to the rest at The New Republic

The Program Era

20 April 2016

From BookForum:

I can’t remember the last time I used an electric typewriter. It most likely would have been in the course of typing out an address on an envelope—but then again, I can’t readily call to mind the last time I did that with anything other than that old-fashioned technology, the ballpoint pen, which itself is not really all that old school. The mass commercial distribution of the ballpoint pen in the United States dates only to about 1945, which means its triumphal appearance in the writing market occurred just under twenty years before that of the Magnetic Tape Selectric Typewriter, IBM’s radically rethought typewriting device. Released in 1964, the MT/ST was the first machine of its kind, equipped with a magnetic-tape memory component that allowed you to edit text before it was actually printed on the page. Corporations were considered the primary beneficiaries of the new technology, a wrinkle on the electric typewriter that arrived with considerable media enthusiasm. The makers of the MT/ST saw the contemporary office groaning under the weight of metastasizing paperwork and envisioned making money off companies hoping to streamline the costs of secretarial labor and increase productivity. Writers were something of an afterthought: Whatever effect IBM’s product would have on authors—high or low, commercial or experimental—was collateral.

But if the introduction of a new type of word-processing machine started a slow-burning revolution in how writers went about their business, it was a revolution nonetheless, drastically altering how authors did their work. The primary focus of Matthew G. Kirschenbaum’s new history of word processing, Track Changes, is a twenty-year span, from the moment that IBM brought out the MT/ST until 1984, when the Apple Macintosh first offered a glimpse of an unchained future with its televised appeal to a nation of would-be Winston Smiths.

. . . .

As Kirschenbaum’s history reminds us, the story of personal computers supplanting older systems dedicated to word processing—and writers’ larger commitment to abandoning pens and ink and typewriter ribbons and correction fluid—was hardly the fait accompli that we sometimes think it was. His book attempts a full literary history of this shift. To do so, he ranges across a number of phenomena: the technical and managerial prehistories of the word-processing revolution; the imaginative, sometimes allegorical literary responses to how work was managed (from Stanislaw Lem’s 1971 “U-Write-It,” which fantasized a fully automated literary production line, to John Updike’s 1983 poem “INVALID.KEYSTROKE,” a sort of ode to the little dot that appeared on the screen between words in early word processors like his own Wangwriter II); and most prominently, how word processing both tapped into and reflected writers’ anxieties about their whole enterprise. The last didn’t appear with the first wizardly word processor or dazzling software program, and it hasn’t gone away. What Kirschenbaum doesn’t do is reflect on how the “program era” affected authors’ sentence structure, book length, and the like. Track Changes is less concerned with big data than with bit-by-bit change.

. . . .

Learning how to operate earlier systems took diligence, with coded combinations of keys that allowed users to manipulate chunks of text. Plus, the various systems weren’t mutually compatible. If you bought a Kaypro or a Tandy or a Commodore, you were stuck with the limitations (or enjoyed the advantages) of the particular product in ways that seem impossible to imagine for anyone using a laptop today.

. . . .

Yet the first generation of word-processing systems attracted a legion of proselytizing adopters. Kirschenbaum includes a roster of acolytes—from Michael Chabon, Arthur C. Clarke, and Ralph Ellison to Anne Rice and Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick—whose motley makeup gives a sense of how the appeal of word processing crossed genre boundaries. Many were loyal to specific programs. George R. R. Martin remains a user of WordStar to this day, and William F. Buckley never abandoned it.

. . . .

What made word-processing devices much more than just souped-up typewriters was not only that they gave you the ability to edit at the same time that you wrote, or that they eliminated or seriously curtailed the effort of correcting from typewritten pages. Seeing text revealed on a screen, even in the technologically costive form offered by the earliest word processors, provided an unprecedented opportunity to picture the manuscript as a whole and with an immediacy that typewriting didn’t permit. The acronym WYSIWYG—What You See Is What You Get—delivered perhaps the same frisson for writers in the early 1980s as Frank Stella’s “What You See Is What You See” had to ambitious painters a generation earlier. Even the intricate system of keyboard commands required to move passages or insert italics or signal word breaks seemed akin to the freedom of writing in longhand, the fingers never leaving the keyboard, with none of the “mechanical” intrusion of typing and retyping manuscripts: It combined the “efficiency of typing with a hands-on, no-nonsense approach to really handling a manuscript—almost as if the writer was somehow ruffling the electronic pages, marking them up and blocking off passages, sorting them into piles and flagging them with bits of scrap paper or colored ribbon or bubble gum wrappers.”

. . . .

Kirschenbaum’s history also relates a more profound erasure, that of the unseen hands, mostly women’s, the typists and office workers whose value was an intentional casualty of the revolution. There’s a good bit of ironic justice, then, in his nomination for the first novel written on a word processor: the British writer Len Deighton’s 1970 Bomber, the execution of which began sometime in 1968 on a European version of the MT/ST mastered by Deighton’s assistant, Ellenor Handley. Deighton did the laborious work of constructing a complex narrative from a typescript; Handley did the laborious work of making his scissors-and-paste method of integrating cross-cutting narratives obsolete. The first book, perhaps, to be created on a word processor was hence a collaborative production. The words “indisputably belong to Len Deighton. But the hands that recorded and processed them using the MT/ST belong to Ellenor Handley.”

Link to the rest at BookForum

A couple of impacts of word processors on law offices that may be of interest:

Legal secretaries were the crème de la crème of the secretarial world (ditto for statistical typists – think adding the top row of numbers and symbols to the three rows with letters without slowing down). For many purposes, legal secretaries had to be exquisitely accurate. In many offices, typed wills, for example, could have no errors. A simple correction, even via a correcting Selectric, might look like an heir had changed the will for nefarious purposes. A mistake in the last sentence on a page required that the entire page be retyped. White-out was entirely unacceptable.

Watching a legal secretary type at impossibly high speed with no errors was a memorable experience.

When dedicated word processors made their appearance, most legal secretaries were relieved. Type the form will once, save it on the word processor, then making minor changes for each client sounded like heaven. However, it marked the beginning of the end for extraordinary typists.

When large law firms began to buy very expensive word processors that were much larger than a typewriter, putting one outside of each attorney’s, or even each partner’s office was not financially practical, to say nothing of the enormous noise the printers made as they hammered out page after page.

For a period of time, the word processors and their operators were installed in a separate, soundproof room. Extremely fast typists listened to dictation or worked from marked up first drafts, then delivered the clean copies to waiting attorneys and secretaries.

In order to justify the cost of the machines, some large law offices ran their word processors 24 hours per day with three shifts of typists. PG remembers working on a complex document at a Los Angeles law firm at 3:00 AM and picking up new drafts from a room with a half-dozen typists hammering away at whatever needed to be completed in the middle of the night.

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